You’ve heard the saying “families that play together, stay together”, right? Well, what if I said “companies that learn together, perform together”. While it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, the latter sentence is no less true.
We are more willing to learn at work when we feel emotionally supported AND when we learn as a group. Watching other people learn the same skill or behavior that we are attempting to learn is a powerful motivator for success. It creates a pack mentality for learning and sends performance indicators through the roof. The companies that are the best at learning tend to be the best in the marketplace; and that is not a coincidence.
Learning vicariously through the people we work with is one of the truest forms of a learning organization. When we learn with and for our colleagues, it matures the culture and it builds into the foundation of the organization. Learning that is driven by the behavior of the group, grows the capabilities of the team and expands the human capacity of its members. In other words, it makes us better people at home and at work. And who doesn’t want that?
But simply putting people in a room together and hoping they will become a high functioning team is just not quite good enough. Exceptional workplace learning is most effectively cultivated out of 2 basic components: experiential learning and leadership.
Experiential learning brings people to a place where they don’t realize the depth and the quality of learning that is taking place. When it’s done well, it’s like magic! Part of what makes experiential learning magic, is that it becomes an individual learning opportunity and a shared experience between teams. The training transfer occurs immediately between colleagues because they apply and model the new behavior or skill during the experience. It makes for an organic transition back in the office, the field, or the manufacturing floor. Peer observation and learning vicariously through others suggests to us that we can complete a task or solve a problem as well. When we learn as a group, it builds our confidence and nurtures a corporate mindset of learning and leadership. It’s hard to learn anything when we’re fighting self-doubt or social pressures. Experiential learning washes that away.
If the training provided is not supported by the culture or by the leadership of the organization, there is little hope of any real behavior change and there is no real value in the learning. True learning that changes behavior in the workplace is most effective when driven and maintained over time by leadership. Leaders that model and support workplace learning promote inquiry, encourage collaboration, and empower employees to take risks. And the good news about leadership is that you don’t have to be in a position of authority to be a leader. That is to say, we all have a shared responsibility to ensure that we are doing our absolute best to guarantee the outcome of the training. When we choose to act as leaders, we can improve the relationships of the people we work with and help to improve the working ability of our colleagues and ourselves.
Ability tends to not be a fixed attribute that lives somewhere deep in our behavioral memory. Ability is rather a generative capability that most often needs social, motivational, and behavioral support to grow to its full potential. And that is the chief purpose of learners and leaders alike; to learn together and perform together.
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